SUMMARY: Sixteen-year-old Arthur is experiencing an interesting life change. After getting into a bicycle accident and breaking his arm, he’s thrown onto the Hottie List of Elwood City High. Girls are finally noticing him, but Arthur thinks it’s for the worst reason in the world. To make matters worse, a hot young babysitter named Naomi is hired by the Read’s to help care for Arthur, DW, Kate, and their four-year-old younger siblings, Ricky and Vicky, while Arthur is out of commission. Will Naomi fulfill her duties and make life for the Read’s better, or will she only make things worse as she too joins the pursuit of the handsome Arthur Read? Find out in Naomi’s World, and be prepared for plenty of twists and turns.
Jane and David smiled at their son the next morning. He was the first one up like always, and he entered the kitchen cradling his broken arm before sitting at the breakfast table, careful to avoid the twins’ high chairs.
“Naomi spoke highly of everyone last night. She did a wonderful job, and she can’t wait to come back whenever we need her again,” Jane smiled, glancing at her husband as Arthur shrugged the best he could. David cleared his throat, getting his son’s attention, “That’ll be tonight, actually. Mom needs us to help her with some things at home, and I really think it’s best that everyone stays here.”
Arthur made no reaction as his mother handed him his usual breakfast of cereal and milk, “Arthur, do you have anything to say? Maybe a suggestion?” Jane asked, watching as he continued to sit silently. “Do you even speak anymore?”
“It’s fine. Naomi does well with everyone. I just…I don’t like knowing someone else is doing my job, is all,” Arthur muttered. This was half-truth, half-lie. He didn’t mind someone else bathing the children and doing the dirty work. What he minded was being out of commission in the first place.
“Well, that’s understandable,” David nodded, ruffling Arthur’s hair. “You’re a good son, Arthur, and we’re lucky to have you. You’ll be able to take care of the kids again soon, unless you decide to get a job. Naomi’s rates are reasonable, and that would give you some extra spending money for when you hang out with your friends.”
“I’ll think about it,” Arthur murmured, taking a bite of his cereal. Kate entered the room a moment later, chattering with their parents about the awesome Naomi. Arthur almost felt nauseous, so he ate quickly and packed his things for school. No one noticed as he slipped out the front door, halfway running to Buster’s house to get away.
“Whoa, you’re in a hurry!” Bitzi laughed, nearly running into Arthur as she exited the condo. “What brings you here so early? The bus won’t leave for another twenty minutes,” Bitzi said, checking her watch to make sure that was true. Instead, she found it was four hours behind; her watch had stopped in the night. “Oh, no, and my phone’s dead too! Buster, can I borrow your watch?!” she yelled into the house, leading Arthur in as she listened for a response.
“Need it!” Buster muttered out the bathroom door, sending out a spray of toothpaste foam. He smiled as he noticed Arthur, “Hey, you’re early! Go into my room. I have something to show you,” he cried, moving over to let Arthur by in the narrow hallway. A moment later, Arthur was in his room, listening to the absentminded Bitzi ask Buster numerous questions. The smell of something burning filled the house, sending the scattered woman out the door. Their day was just going too badly for her to stick around.
When Buster entered the room, he had a blackened toaster pastry on his plate and he was licking icing from his fingers. He looked happy about life, but he could tell Arthur was very troubled. He sat at his desk to eat, looking up to Arthur to get him talking. Arthur told him about Naomi, but Arthur didn’t get the reaction he expected.
“You’re worried that Naomi is one of those brats from school?” Buster laughed. “Come on, she’s going to put on an act while she’s there. She wants your parents to pay her, doesn’t she? Come on, you’re worried about nothing. And I don’t even think anyone named Naomi goes to our school. Muffy would’ve fought with her by now if she’s as beautiful as you say. Wait, is she hot? Give her a number.”
“I won’t judge my babysitter for hotness,” Arthur groaned, lying back on the bed carefully. “I just need to get better so I can take over again. But…my parents really like her. Dad told me I could get a job because Naomi has good rates. They told me no just a month ago, but now they’re suggesting it like they’re replacing me or something.”
“Replace you? No, you’re a bigger control freak than Brain when it comes to those kids,” Buster scoffed. “You’re just feeling inferior because she took your job. I say you should enjoy it. It’s not every day you can pawn off three brats and a little sister onto someone else,” Buster laughed, careful to keep Kate off the Brat List, the official list they kept to show who caused them the greatest pain in life. At the top? Muffy Crosswire.
“We need to get to school,” Arthur sighed. It was a Monday, which meant a stricter tardy policy to start off the new week right. Buster agreed, and soon the two were walking to the bus stop to make their way to Elwood City High.
|Elwood City High Hottie Patrol|
Arthur and Buster shared a locker on Elwood City High’s second floor. When they approached, Muffy and her new best friend, Sue Ellen, were leaning against it. Buster tried to reason with them, but they weren’t moving.
“Hunk material up ahead, boys,” Muffy said firmly, remaining locked against their locker as she stared into the mass of teens up ahead. “Won’t move until this storm is over,” she grinned, elbowing Sue Ellen gently, “Isn’t he the hottest hottie that ever hottied?”
“OMG, yes!” Sue Ellen cried, almost jumping with joy.
“Boy with a broken arm here. Move, Muffy,” Buster said firmly. Muffy scoffed and turned around angrily. Her eyes fell on Arthur and her mouth changed shape, “I thought you were lying, Buster Baxter. Fine, but don’t expect too much sympathy, Arthur. We’ve all broken a few bones or two. You’re not entitled to anything beyond your status level.”
“Oh, stop, Muffy. You’ve never broken a bone,” Sue Ellen whispered. Despite her and Muffy being best friends, Sue Ellen was often a voice of reason. She wasn’t even on the boys’ Brat List because she was so nice, and now was a clear example of her power over Muffy. She pulled them up the hallway, taking over a water fountain to stare at whoever they were looking at.
“Wow, that was weird,” Arthur sighed, unloading his heavy homework books into the locker with Buster’s help. Buster shrugged, “You’ve got to learn to use that arm to your advantage, even if you are mad at yourself over the wreck. I saw it, Arthur. I watched you go down, namely because I knew I could be next. Things happen when you ride your bike. It’s perfectly reasonable.”
Arthur shook his head. He still felt like an idiot, and Buster knew today wasn’t the day to argue with him. They parted ways to get to their first class, sending Arthur past Muffy and Sue Ellen. The boy they’d been drooling about was gone, and with the tardy bell approaching, the girls separated. Muffy went in the same direction as Buster, heading towards the stairs to the third floor. Sue Ellen ended up beside Arthur, and she tapped his good shoulder to get his attention.
“Hey, I was wondering what happened to you,” she said kindly, hugging her books as they entered one of the most congested halls in the whole school. Arthur shrugged, “Flipped off my bike Friday afternoon. It’s a bad break, but the doctors think I won’t need surgery,” Arthur explained, immediately blushing and turning from her. Though she was Muffy’s voice of reason, she rarely took an interest in anyone except the school’s hotties, and it was confirmed by all the girls that Arthur and Buster were NOT on that list.
“That’s good. My mom broke her leg a few weeks ago and needed surgery. Maybe you’ll see her at physical therapy in a few weeks,” Sue Ellen smiled, ducking into a classroom. Arthur entered his own within seconds of the bell, taking his seat as his strict teacher closed the classroom door.
Arthur’s mind should’ve been on the pop quiz he had a moment later, but instead he thought of Naomi and Sue Ellen taking an interest in him. Was his broken arm doing all of that? Arthur blushed at the thought of a bunch of brats fighting over him. That was what the “hottest hotties” had to go through, not a nobody like him. But what if he wasn’t a nobody anymore? Arthur couldn’t help but smile at the thought, and his pop quiz was turned in with seven out of ten questions incorrect.
|Mystery Bits of Bonding|
Arthur had a hard day at school that day. Everyone was so concerned over his broken arm, namely females. Guys simply wanted to sign his bright, blue cast, but the girls? They wanted the whole story, every detail, and they looked at him with expressions that confused the inexperienced Arthur into a state of silence. By the time he headed home, he wanted to be left alone, and since he was usually the first of the older children to return home, he expected to have the house to himself aside from his mom and the twins.
Instead, approached his house to hear the twins squealing from the backyard swing set their father had put together. A girl’s laugh followed the children’s happy cries: Naomi was back.
“Welcome home, Arthur. Your parents are working now, and tonight they’ll be with your Grandma Thora,” Naomi called to Arthur. He nodded, shrinking into the house and into his upstairs bedroom. Why was she here so early? Arthur’s mind raced as he put down his heavy backpack on the bed and sank into his desk chair. How long would he have to put up with her trying to ask him questions? Hadn’t he been through enough today?
As Arthur wondered about what he should do next, the girls entered the house with the twins and Naomi not far behind. The smell of baking cookies filled the air as the oven’s timer began to chime out loudly. Even Arthur wasn’t allowed to use David’s fancy new oven, and Arthur nearly ran down the stairs to see if Naomi really was doing something she shouldn’t be.
“Hey, Arthur, your dad put these on before he left. Do you mind showing me how to turn off everything?” Naomi smiled. Arthur turned off the timer and the oven’s heat before looking over his usual charges. The girls and the twins looked happy as they stared at the cookies, still cooling on some wire cooling racks. This rare treat was unexpected, and Arthur wondered what it was all about.
Before he could think for too long, Naomi began passing out a cookie for each person. She handed two to Arthur, a treat for the oldest. Arthur shook his head, “Not hungry,” he muttered, moping up the stairs with a heavy frown on his face. Something was up in the Read household and Arthur didn’t like it, not one bit.
A few minutes after he entered his room, he heard the girls enter their bedroom to begin their homework, and the twins were settled into the den for their favorite afternoon shows. With everyone busied by something, Naomi slinked up the stairs and gently knocked on Arthur’s door.
“Kate, is that you?” Arthur called. Naomi shook her head, “No, it’s Naomi. I wanted to talk to you, get to know you better. You seemed upset earlier, and I just—“
“I’m fine,” Arthur assured her. “Please, I need to get started on my homework. I’ll be fine,” he sighed, looking at his school books with contempt. Usually he was using this quiet time to do his own schoolwork, but today he just wanted to go for a bike ride, like that would do him any good.
“Well, I need your help with dinner. Your father said you were the only one who knew the stove as well as him, and he wanted me to reheat some stir-fry for everyone,” Naomi called through the door, leaning against it gently, “I like bonding with my charges that way anyhow. Would you like that?”
Arthur didn’t know how to respond. He’d rather do dinner himself than work side-by-side with Naomi on some bonding mission, but she sounded so sincere through the door. In fact, she almost sounded upset that Arthur was pushing her away, and he wondered if he should just suck it up and let her talk to him.
“I need an answer, Arthur. You’re still there, aren’t you?” she asked with a small giggle. Arthur nodded, “I’m still here. I’ll help you with dinner. Just don’t ask too many questions. You probably won’t be here too long and I don’t want you hurting the kids’ feelings. They really like you already, so I don’t want you to break their hearts.”
Naomi smiled, “You’re a kind big brother, Arthur, but I save my heartbreaking for the boys of St. Paul’s School for Boys next to my Catholic high school,” she laughed. “See you downstairs at four. Let me know if you need any help on that homework.”
Arthur looked at his books and forced himself to begin his work. Four o’clock was just forty minutes away, but he knew it would be a very long forty minutes. His head was swimming, and he wished he hadn’t broken his cell phone during his bike accident. He wanted to tell Buster this new fact about Naomi, but he had no way of doing so without being busted. He needed to talk to his friend. He needed help figuring everything out.
|Advice and Adjustments|
Arthur entered the kitchen just as his doorbell rang. Naomi moved to answer it while Arthur retrieved the container of frozen stir-fry from the refrigerator, where Naomi placed it to begin the thawing process. As Arthur maneuvered it into a pan, Naomi entered the room with Buster Baxter in front of her.
“Your parents didn’t mention friends coming over for dinner, but I think there’s enough for everyone,” Naomi laughed. “Care to help us…?”
“Buster Baxter,” Buster smiled, extending his hand in a gentleman-like fashion. Arthur scoffed as Naomi laughed heartily, “Well, you’re a wonderful guy. Tell me more about yourself, Buster Baxter. Do you go to Elwood City High with Arthur?”
Buster nodded, joining Arthur on his bad side to help him break apart the frozen tidbits of the meal. Naomi took the other side, grabbing a second spatula to join in, “I’ve heard Elwood City High is a wonderful place to go to school. I was at St. Mary’s School for Girls before I graduated. I got out a year early because I’m taking college classes too. I’m going to be a nurse,” she nodded. Buster smiled, “My mom thought about being a nurse, but the sight of blood makes her pass out.”
Naomi laughed loudly, making Arthur shudder from the noise, “Tell me about it! My teacher wants us to draw blood from each other next week, but I don’t know if I’m ready yet. Being a nurse is hard, but it’s something I’ve always wanted. And in a year or so, I’ll be able to take my test. If I pass, I’ll get my license and I can get a nursing job anywhere in the state. I want to be a school nurse so I can be close to children, or work in a pediatrician’s office. Oh, enough about me,” she laughed. “What do you want to do with your life, Buster?”
“Professional comedian,” he nodded with a smile. Naomi grinned, asking him to perform a joke. Buster was more than happy to do this; he did it all the time at school, “Alright, so what’s the deal with these gas prices? I was driving past a gas station the other day when I happened to see a few people come out with missing arms or legs. What’s next, your first born son?” he joked. Naomi laughed; Arthur grinned for support.
“Wow, that’s good. Who’s your favorite comedian of all time?” she asked. Buster shrugged, “I like them all, really. Well, my mom won’t let me watch the vulgar ones unless it’s censored, so I guess I don’t like them as much, but I like anyone who comes on television. What about you?”
“I like young prodigies. They’re the future of comedy, you know?” Naomi replied. Buster almost cried out as a wide smile took his face. Arthur almost felt sick again; Buster was falling for his babysitter.
“I can do this while you two set the table,” Arthur said, stirring the thawed mixture. Naomi agreed with that plan, filling Buster’s arms with plates before filling her hands with various silverware. Child-sized plates were placed on one side of the table while adult-sized plates were on the other end. Kate still took a smaller plate, leaving four for DW, Arthur, Buster, and Naomi. DW’s plate was on the children’s side of the table. The other three were at the other end, two on one side and one on the other. Arthur shuddered as he wondered who would be sitting next to whom.
As the smell of dinner filled the house, the usual food-induced chaos filled the Read home. Arthur served the stir-fry in a large bowl that Naomi carried to the crowded table. She served the twins first before placing the bowl within everyone’s reach. She then took a seat on the side with two plates. Buster took the seat next to her, leaving Arthur to sit alone on the other side, which filled him with both relief and anxiety all at the same time.
“Do you all pray before meals?” Naomi asked. Arthur shook his head; they didn’t even pray at Christmas when his mom’s family came over. Naomi shrugged, bowing her head as the entire rest of the table ate ravenously. Buster was the only one not stuffing his face as he watched Naomi pray.
“What was she doing?” Vicky called, smacking her lips as she chewed some of the stir-fry’s pasta. Naomi laughed, “First, let’s chew with our mouths closed. Second, I was praying. Do you know about God or Jesus?” Naomi asked. Arthur shook his head for them, “No, they have no idea what you’re taking about.”
Naomi seemed to light up with the opportunity to explain her religion to outsiders, but before she could begin, the phone rang. She looked to Arthur to answer it, but he shook his head, “Only the one in charge can answer the phone. Family rule,” he grinned. DW nodded in agreement, watching Naomi head into the hall to answer it.
“Wow, a Catholic school girl,” Buster grinned, kicking Arthur gently underneath the table. “I came over just to ask you how your day went. I never expected this!” he squealed. DW scoffed from the other end of the table, “Who cares how Arthur’s day went? I bet he was the most popular boy in school with that Smurf arm of his.”
“Don’t be rude, DW,” Arthur said, sticking his tongue out at her. She did the same as Buster looked to Arthur, “You were the most popular. People kept twisting your story around, so now the whole student body thinks you were thrown off a horse and run over by an ATV. All the girls are swimmy-eyed over you. You’re on the hottie list!”
“I doubt that,” Arthur argued. Buster was about to counter him, but Naomi returned and took over the table conversation, “That was your parents, Read children. They’ll be home after you go to bed, but they’ll have to go back tomorrow, so I’ll be here again,” Naomi smiled. The twins cheered as Arthur sank into his chair. “Something wrong, Arthur?” Naomi asked. He shook his head before picking at his stir-fry. His appetite was gone, and he really wished he could hide out somewhere for the next few days.
To make matters worse, when he did get alone time with Buster, all he could talk about was how beautiful Naomi was, how funny she was, and how she thought Buster was so funny. Arthur lay across his bed and stared out the window.
“Arthur, are you even listening to me?” Buster asked. Arthur nodded weakly. “You just don’t seem that interested. How could you not like her? You liked that one back in the day,” Buster grinned. Arthur scoffed, “I was a child then. I’ve grown up now, and I should be the one here, not her.”
Buster sighed, “You need to take advantage of that arm, man. Girls love an injured man because they want to take care of him. Remember when my mom dated that guy in a wheelchair? He was a complete mess when she got to know him, but before that, she couldn’t wait to take care of him. She even looked at probably date sites ahead of time to make sure he could get in. It was gross.”
“Are you comparing me to Thomas, the extra-rude guy in a wheelchair who called your mom a worthless pig on their third date for not taking a phone call from work?” Arthur asked coldly. Buster blushed and laughed weakly, “A little,” he admitted.
Arthur groaned loudly, “I’m not going to take advantage of this stupid arm because girls like me more. I don’t want them fighting over me. You’ve seen how they get when they start fighting over a guy.”
“And the guy always benefits, always, even George. When he came to Elwood City tall, dark, handsome, and not klutzy anymore, the girls were all over him. Now he’s on the hottie list and has a date every week with a different girl, unless he likes the same girl. But if he wants a different one, he has the choice. You could be George!”
“I’m still me, just with…well, a Smurf arm like DW said,” Arthur sighed. “Don’t get me hopes up, okay? You’re my best friend, and you usually give great advice, but milking this will only start trouble. I don’t like that. I don’t like any of this.”
“Well get used to it because that thing is your life for the next month or more,” Buster said, patting Arthur’s good shoulder and letting himself out, careful to give a funny goodbye to Naomi before leaving. She laughed heartily, and Arthur really felt sick this time. He managed to let the feeling pass, but he knew deep down that Buster was right, and this bad feeling was something to adjust to slowly but surely.